Friday, December 29, 2017

The Great Bengali Pata Bata or veggie Pâté -- leafy greens pâté

Mulo Shak Bata, Phulkopi pata bata, bengali pata bata

Mulo Shaak Bata | Phulkopi Pata Bata| Bengali Pata Bata

Radish greens, Cauliflower leaves, Lau Pata, and other such fresh green peels or leaves which we usually discard, are made into a beautiful dish in Bengal called "pata bata" which is a seasoned and spiced paste of these leaves and stalks. A close cousin of  Pate in French or a Pesto in Italian, this very Bengali rustic dish with generous doses of Mustard oil is a culinary delight.

Bengali Pata Bata

Many, many years ago, it was a cold winter day just like today, when I was visiting my in-laws in India. Well not exactly cold like today as it was in India but it gets pretty cold where they live. Though I must say with the  sun on the terrace winter in their town is far better than here. On that winter afternoon there were several small bowls on the dining table at lunch. So yes, lunch is what I concentrate on when I visit anyone, in-laws or out-laws.

Well there were always several small bowls on the dining table but this time each of them contained a paste or mash like something in earthy colors of brown, deep green or deeper green. I had never seen the likes of them and was actually a bit suspicious with their color and portions. The husband-man however went ecstatic and shouted in glee "Baata korecho?" I was still clueless. The guy loved weird things like bittergourd and bitter neem leaves fry and so his happiness did not aid my confidence.

Nimbly I took a little of one of those baatas and mixed it with white rice and took a morsel. Flavors of mustard oil, green chili, kalonji burst in my mouth. This was good. So so good. Unlike neem paata which I detested. Surprised with the fullness of flavors and smoothness of the texture, I asked my Ma-in-law what it was ?

"Mulo Shaak Baata", she said. And then she pointed to the others and said "Kochu baata" and "Kopi paata baata"! I was bowled by all these baatas or pates or pastes. They were really heavenly. That something so simple like "Leafy greens of radish" or the "green leaves of cauliflower" could morph into something so delicious was beyond my imagination.

She explained how the greens are ground into a paste on the sheel-nora, the same pocmarked slab of stone used in all Indian homes used to wet-grind spices. After that the paste is sauteed in Mustard oil with spices like kalo jeera(kalonji), green chilies and garlic, until the water is dried out and the paste is cooked.

Sheel Nora -- though here it is being used for making posto

Back home, I asked my Mother, "How come you never made paata baata?"

She looked quizzically at me and didn't appear too happy about my allegiance towards this strange dish called "paata bata"

And when I explained what it was she dismissed it as something that Bangals make, "Bangal ra oi shob banay".

Well might be true. The Bangals, or the Bengalis who immigrated from Bangladesh during or just before partition, are known for their distinctive cooking strategies. They are also known for their enterprising habit of using every bit of vegetables and fish in a dish and not wasting even the peels. I am not sure why people from this region of Bengal are more prone to making baatas etc while the folks from West Bengal are not.

It could be that the immigrant Bengalis, living a rough life, uprooted from their home and earnings, were more careful about not wasting food and making the most of what they had. It could also be because Bangladesh was a river state with frequent flooding, so people tried to make most of the vegetables they grew during those periods of rain and flood. In both situations, the idea was to stretch to the limits of what little you had.

So whatever the reason of their origin, the pate' like dishes made from vegetable peels or leafy greens or even whole vegetables are delicious. Later my mom-in-law also made a Kaanchakolar khosa baata made with the skin of green plantains which I have shared on the blog earlier.  Last month when we were visiting my friends from Thanksgiving, my friend Deepshikha made a "Dhonepaata Bata", a similar paste like my Ma-in-law makes but with coriander leaves. It was not the "dhonepata chutney" that we make every winter. This was a cooked dish.

So once I was back in my kitchen I was itching to make a paata bata. But instead of using only Coriander leaves, I wanted to use radish greens and cabbage. And then I didn't find any radish greens at the market so I got some watercress, which we are very fond of. The paste was now made of watercress, cabbage and coriander leaves.  More of coriander and watercress and less of cabbage. I wasn't sure how the  cabbage would  turn out so I sauteed them first and then made the paste. But honestly  the transformation of these greens into this Bengali style pâté was spectacular.

The Great Bengali Paata Baata -- leafy greens pâté 

Here are the Greens Generally used for Bengali Paata Baata

Radish greens -- remove the thick center stem and chop the green
Cauliflower Leaves - Buy a Cauliflower nestling in its leaves. Remove the thick white stem and chop the tender leaves for this recipe

Here are the Greens I used

Instead of cabbage and watercress you can use radish greens or leaves of cauliflower

Half of a small cabbage

1 bunch of watercress (Instead of cabbage, I use 2 bunches of watercress on most days)

2 bunches of coriander leaves

Other Ingredients

Lots of garlic -- 7-8 fat cloves of garlic

Green Chili -- 8

Grated Coconut -- 1/2 Cup

Kalonji -- 1 tsp

Mustard Oil -- I didn't measure

Salt -- to taste

Here is how I cooked

Wash and chop the cabbage and watercress.

In a wok or kadhai, heat 2 tsp of Mustard oil

Add 5 cloves of garlic, 4 green chili

Next add the chopped veggies. Saute for couple of minutes. Cover and cook until the veggies have softened.

Cool and add all of the above to a blender jar and make a fine paste

Take it out in a bowl

Now to the same jar add the coriander leaves, 4 more green chillis, tiny bit of ginger and 3 fat cloves of garlic. Make a smooth paste with few splashes of water.

Take this coriander paste out in a bowl

Next to the same jar goes 1/2 a cup of grated coconut. Make a coarse mix of this.

Now add about 3 tbsp Mustard oil to the wok/kadhai

Temper the oil with 1 tsp of Kalonji

Add the coriander paste and saute for 3-4 minutes

Add the leafy green paste and mix and saute for 2 more minutes.

Next goes the coconut. Mix and add salt and red chili powder to taste

Now saute until water evaporates and the paste becomes drier and concentrated. This will take some time and you will need to add more mustard oil as needed.

Enjoy it mixed with rice.

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1 comment:

  1. Sounds a lot like kochur lotir recipe... though there is no ginger in that...


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